Don’t you give me none o’ your lip. . . . You’ve put on considerable many frills since I been away. I’ll take you down a peg before I get done with you. You’re educated, too, they say—can read and write. You think you’re better’n your father, now, don’t you, because he can’t? I’ll take it out of you. Who told you you might meddle with such hifalut’n foolishness, hey?—who told you you could?
Pap addresses these words to Huck in Chapter 5, and they’re among the first words he has said to his son in years. Pap clearly feels threatened by the good fortune Huck has had in Widow Douglas’s care. Not only is he well dressed, but he has also gained a basic education. Pap’s anger here may also arise from shame, since he knows he could never provide for Huck as well as the Widow. Pap worries that Huck will look down on him, and so he asserts himself with threatening words.
Here’s what the law does. The law takes a man worth six thousand dollars and up-ards, and jams him into an old trap of a cabin like this, and lets him go round in clothes that ain’t fitten for a hog. They call that govment!
In Chapter 6, as he attempts to regain custody of Huck and hence access to his son’s fortune, Pap delivers this diatribe about the failures of the government and the legal system. He believes it’s the government’s fault that he is poor and struggling, and he feels like the law is interfering with his individual liberty. Yet, ironically, the law is doing precisely what it’s designed to do when it protects Huck’s fortune from Pap’s greed.
Thinks I, what is this country a-coming to? It was ’lection day, and I was just about to go and vote, myself, if I warn’t too drunk to get there; but when they told me there was a State in this country where they’d let that nigger vote, I drawed out. I says I’ll never vote agin.
Pap continues his diatribe against the government. Here he is explaining why he refuses to do his duty as a citizen and vote. Pap clearly feels politically disenfranchised, but his explanation is deeply problematic. He seems to think that because the government’s policy does not completely align with his opinion, it is irredeemable. But this position is untenable, even ironic. In refusing to cast a ballot because black men can vote, Pap effectively gives his vote to the very group he purports to hate. This bad logic ultimately demonstrates the contradictory nature of racism, not the malfunctioning of government.